British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday vowed to make developing countries less dependent on China economically, as he met five MPs sanctioned by China a day earlier.
“The prime minister talked about exploring ways towards alleviation programs to offset the level of dependency on China through the Belt and Road initiative,” a politician who attended the meeting at No 10 Downing Street said.
Johnson’s remark on Beijing’s multi-billion-dollar investment and infrastructure scheme was described as “unprompted.”
The prime minister tweeted Saturday: “This morning I spoke with some of those who have been shining a light on the gross human rights violations being perpetrated against Uyghur Muslims. I stand firmly with them and the other British citizens sanctioned by China.”
China’s sanctions raised the possibility of longer-term damage to the already frosty U.K.-China relationship, which has been damaged over the national security law in Hong Kong.
The five parliamentarians — three MPs, including ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, and two members of the House of Lords — are part of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China. Beijing sanctioned a total of nine British citizens over what it called “lies and disinformation” about human rights abuses against the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.
“We are delighted that the Prime Minister agreed to meet us today to express his solidarity with Parliamentarians and other British citizens sanctioned by the Chinese government,” the five IPAC members said in a statement. “Our focus is not on these sanctions, but on the victims of the Chinese Communist Party. We take this opportunity to raise again the plight of the Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kongers and other groups subject to persecution by the Chinese government.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reported Friday that some of the MPs sanctioned by China are facing increased cyber-security threats, and they were being offered support on cyber security by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.